Situational Leadership – Delegation

Situational Leadership – Delegation

“They need to delegate more,” is a phrase we often hear when gathering feedback about leaders. While it may be easy to point out, the statement may not be as simple as it looks to act on.
 
Delegation is the pinnacle of situational leadership and leaders can miss the mark here as they enter this exciting phase of leadership if they haven’t brought the person through the other stages of leadership first.

What is Delegating and when do you use this style?


Your ultimate goal in delegation is to have create an empowered individual that has the capacity and confidence to take the task, assignment, or project to successful completion with little supervision. They are highly motivated, driven, and competent to get great results on their own.
 
Just like Supporting, this is very much a follower-driven stage of leadership. You are still “Inspecting what you expect,” but with little follow-up needed. While still need to Champion Success and celebrate their wins, you no longer need to praise every task or achievement.
 
With Delegation, you’ll want to start the process in less stressful times with lower risk in order for them to get comfortable and have a higher chance for success. You will also share more context about organizational goals and constraints so that they can make informed decisions and develop the best approach to reach the goal.

Why is Delegating an important part of your overall leadership?

Delegation is important because at this stage you have a highly skilled person who is very committed and well-developed in their role. As we’ve talked about building bench strength and the one-level-up concept getting people to the delegation phase is seeing this thought come to life.
 
A person at the delegation stage is highly effective in what they do and often contributes in a larger way to the team. They are also downright fun to lead and you have a high confidence that things are going to get done and get done well.
 
As we said at the open, you do need to delegate in order to realize your own full effectiveness and potential as a leader. These people will help take a load off you and act as multipliers in your influence over others.


What are some of the cautions of Delegation?


One of the main cautions of Delegation is that leaders sometimes want to jump straight to the delegation phase of leadership without taking the person through the previous three stages first. This is one of the reasons why someone can struggle with delegation. They may not have the relationship equity, confidence, or capacity to well in their role to be ready to excel at the delegation phase yet.
 
While many people have heard of micro-managers – leaders that are in every nook and cranny of your daily work routine, there is also a less talked about style at the other end of the spectrum; under-managing. Delegation is the go-to style for people who under-manage their team. “Say it and forget it” would be a way to sum up these leaders.
 
Be sure that you’ve walked through the other levels of leadership before arriving at delegation. Once you lead someone in this style, make sure that they have the full support and resources that they need to be successful.

Think back to your time as both a leader and follower. One of the most inconsistent things that a leader can do is to treat everyone the same. Your approach and style should adapt to the nuances and needs of each individual and their unique set of circumstances.  Use situational leadership styles to raise the level of excellence with all your team as they grow towards the future.
 
 
Make a better tomorrow.
-ZH

Situational Leadership – Coaching

Situational Leadership – Coaching

People love coaches. Think of the numerous films and shows that tell the story of a great coach acting as the North Star that guides the team or individual to the initially improbable victory. On a personal level, you may have had a coach in your academic career or hobby that left a lasting impact on you.
 
Coaches are great and the coaching style certainly has its place in your leadership toolbox. While coaching can be fun, it can be a little different than what is portrayed in the movies that we love.

What is Coaching and when do you use this style?

Coaching is for people who have shown some competence and capability in their role and their commitment level to the organization continues to strengthen. The associate is not totally confident in all that they do, but they are getting there.
 
Just like directing, coaching is a very leader-driven stage. Coaching is less telling like in the Directing Stage and is instead more suggesting. Instead of giving all the answers to the person, you are instead offering multiple paths and letting the person think through the best course of action. 
 
Coaching is also a great stage to begin leading by answering questions with another question. Let’s say a person comes to you and asks a question about billing. Instead of giving them the answer you may reply with, “How do you think we should handle the situation?” While coaching in this way takes longer in the moment, it has a high level of payoff because the associate will start thinking through challenges themselves and become proactive in finding an answer.

Why is Coaching an important part of your overall leadership?


 Coaching is a critical stage to ensure that the associate continues to show growth and development, and it’s also a critical juncture in determining their likelihood of sticking around on your team.
 
While we talked about the importance of directing last week, once the person gains enough knowledge to do the job on their own for the most part, they may feel like your directing style is micromanaging them. Feeling micromanaged can lead to disengagement while their commitment to the organization is still forming. This combination can lead to losing good people that should have stayed on the team.
 
It’s important to switch to this style of leadership as they gain a bit of confidence and knowledge. You’ll begin to expand your leadership to building a trusting personal relationship with the person, and while you are still highly involved with the person, it’s a little less than in the directing stage, which means you are starting to get some of your time back to do other things.

What are some of the cautions of Coaching?


The main caution of coaching is that some people get to this stage and don’t want to leave. The person may have a great relationship with you and thoroughly enjoy all the time that you spend together as you coach them. It’s tempting for you as a leader too. In fact, many leaders think of themselves as “coaches” of their teams.
 
Be willing to continue to push for personal and professional growth as you invest in your team.
 


Associates at this level are really starting to come into their own and are beginning to show their potential to be great in the role and contribute in a larger way. Recognize that they have made progress and spend the time necessary with them so that you can develop them to the next leadership style of Supporting.
 
 
Make a better tomorrow.
-ZH

Tips to be a great coach

Tips to be a great coach

If you ask people to describe themselves as leaders, a word that often comes up is coach. 

How you coach can define what the working relationship will look like with your team. Great coaches typically have people that stay longer, find more purpose in their work and produce higher results. Here are some tips to help you become a great coach worth following and landmines to avoid setbacks and traps.

Avoiding landmines in coaching


There are times when either we come at the conversation wrong, or it takes a turn that we weren’t expecting, and we find ourselves making the coaching personal in nature. When you center your coaching on yourself you have lost focus on the reason for being there – to help the other person grow. 

  • Stay away from comparisons to others: It seems simple enough to say, “You aren’t doing as well as Sally,” but you’ve just made the conversation about Sally and the person you are coaching. This line of dialog can quickly derail a conversation and cause more long-term harm than good. Instead, focus on the behavior or problem and coach that accordingly. It doesn’t matter what others are doing or not doing. The conversation should stay on point with the topic at hand. When I am coaching a group of leaders about their team, I typically think of the people we are discussing as books on a shelf. We pull one down, open it up and discuss it, and then put it back on the shelf, this way there is a clean mental break between people. I also avoid visuals that show groups of people together until the very end. 

  • Keep the distractions away: Everyone is busy. For the best coaching to happen, you and the other person need to be as distraction-free as possible. That means silencing phones, stepping away from the CPU, or moving away from a loud area, so you can both be fully focused on the conversation. The one that typically gets me is my smartwatch. It’s meant to help you not reach for your phone as much, but people will pick up when you glance down at your watch and misinterpret that you mean that you are not interested in what they have to say. 

  • Avoid Interrupting: Deceptively simple, but harder to live out, avoid interrupting as the person is sharing information or their thoughts. You may want to jump in with an immediate rebuttal or “fix” to the comment but hold back and let the person finish sharing. This will help keep engagement levels higher during the conversation.

  • Running diagnostics as coaching: You’ve encountered the diagnostic approach often at work. “Have you tired A? What about B? Have you tried C or D?” This is a great approach when it comes to problem-solving but is less effective as coaching. Your goal should be to ask open-ended questions that invite the person to come up with their own ideas.

Tips for great coaching


Here are some tips to keep your coaching conversation on track and impactful with the other person. 

  • Start from their perspective: Before you have the coaching conversation start your line of thought from their perspective. It may seem counterintuitive but listen more than you talk as you coach others. Without listening with the intention to learn and understand, you’re unlikely to understand the full perspective needed in order to help the person reach the best outcome.

  • Be prepared: The slogan of the Boys Scouts is a great one when it comes to coaching. Come prepared to coach conversations with data, information, and feedback from appropriate parties. Without structure and information, the coaching conversation can devolve into just a casual conversation that the person quickly forgets.

  • Be honest and caring with feedback: It’s imperative to give someone honest feedback when you are coaching. They deserve to hear the truth, where they currently stand, and what the next steps are to move forward. Share takeaways and feedback honestly but remember to do so with care. Honesty can sometimes hurt, but the blow can be softened with a caring and empathetic approach.

  • Use questions to your advantage: Lean into open-ended questions to help the person grow in their problem-solving skills and as an outlet to strengthen their own internal motivators.
  • Ask questions from a curious point of view to understand the other person’s standpoint.
  • Ask great questions, but don’t ask endless questions. Once you get into the right area for the next steps, begin to help the conversation to a positive conclusion.
  • Avoid asking questions to an answer that you already have with a little room for variations, (think compliance, safety, etc.) In those circumstances, it’s better to give the person the answer immediately instead of making them jump through a bunch of proverbial hoops to arrive at the same answer you had in the first place.

Be the coach to others that you’ve always wanted for yourself. Be timely, actionable, caring, and specific as you help your people reach their fullest potential.

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Addressing underperformance the right way

Addressing underperformance the right way

As leaders, or leadership teams, start to think about how to handle performance on their team for the first time, they often focus on who they deem as underperformers first. As a result, you’ll see leaders begin targetting their underperformers openly or subvertly. Mark Zuckerberg warned his employees that they were “turning up the heat” on underperformers and added, “You might decide this place isn’t for you, and that’s OK with me.”

Not exactly inspiring for an employee or for the leader that has to carry out the direction from their CEO.  Great talent wants to be involved with great leadership and if you handle underperforms the wrong way, you may get rid of your least effective people, but your best people may bail on you as well.  It’s important to tackle underperformance professionally and consistently if everyone. 

Be clear on expectations from the beginning and make them realistic


Your expectations and goals for every employee should be crystal clear. Ask yourself:

  • What do they have to do to be considered effective in their role?
  • What are the expectations on their behaviors and how they conduct their work and interact with others? (Look to your values here) 
  • What resources do they need to be successful?
  • Are the goals realistic to meet?

This clarity helps immensely as you lead others. Setting a consistent cadence of conversation also helps. Performance conversations are less likely to bubble up or to be a surprise for anyone, which reduces drama and stress in the workplace. Think about how a conversation would go if there were no ambiguity in what the person needed to do and you were checking in with them on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. 

If a person is struggling to meet expectations ask them for their input on the why. The goal may not be realistic to hit under the current situation or there may be outside factors that are influencing the work that you hadn’t considered before. 

Always talk to the person before taking action


I’ve shared over the years about my interaction with leaders who just wanted to let go of people without having a conversation. I get it; they are frustrated with their limits and just want to move on. A mature leader knows that you’ve got to have those crucial conversations with others.  They will actively listen (Show 303), and attempt to understand the root cause of the issue. 

Trust is very important to help this conversation land in a positive place. When the person feels psychologically safe they will be more likely to open up and share why they are struggling. 

Shows to help with trust building

Build a plan with a clear path to rehabilitation


There are a few types of underperformers and the approach to these people changes depending on what their root issue is.

Blockers: These are people that do just enough to get by, but how they do their work is not aligned with expectations. They are also typically resistant to any kind of change that impacts them.  Help these see the impact of their decisions on themselves and others. Frame up the challenges in a way that matters to them. They likely highly value respect and honor towards themselves, helping them understand how their actions are counter to that value as they deal with others. 

Inconsistent Contributor: These are people exactly as the name describes – inconsistent. Perhaps it’s in the work that they do or you are not sure what version you are going to get of that person on a daily basis. Dig in here to understand the root cause, tighten up your cadence of check-ins and get agreement from them that they understand expectations. Call out the inconsistently plainly. It is also helpful to provide extra support and resources to help get them back on track; this could be a mentor, learning opportunities, or additional headcount support. 

Detractors: These people may not be a great fit for the organization or in the extreme case, they are all out sabotaging the team’s success.  Make sure that you have partnered with your upline leaders and HR partners here as you walk this path. Have a solidly written performance improvement plan with dates on expectations. 

Potential Gems: These people may have been great and could be great again, but today they may not be in the right role. In these circumstances, help the person find a role internally that better aligns with their gifts, talents, and aspirations. They want to do their best and likely love the organization, but perhaps they took on a role because someone asked them to, or they didn’t realize the full scope of what the role would entail. 

Overall your underperformer will likely fall into the inconsistent contributor category with detracts and blockers being more rare and potential gems being the rarest. 

Address your underperformers with empathy and care as you help them back on track with expectations. Remember that they are people too and still deserve to be treated with professionalism and respect.  Addressing the underperformance the right way ensures that you and the other person have the best chance to turn things around. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH